Steve Martin can get a little carried away when he’s talking about banjo music. On the phone from Telluride, Colo., last week, he stopped to apologize after one digression. “I strayed from the question,” Martin said. “I hope I’m not punished.”
A scolding isn’t likely to come from Edie Brickell, who listened patiently on the line as Martin waxed rhapsodically about his instrument of choice. The two are touring together in support of their new album, “Love Has Come For You.” The unlikely duo met at the 70th birthday party for Paul Simon, Brickell’s husband and Martin’s longtime friend.
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“We were off talking and I got the opportunity to tell Steve how much I like his music,” Brickell recalled. “I was just blown away that he can do what he can do, and said if he’d ever like to write a song together, it’s my favorite thing to do. I was amazed when 10 days or so later he actually called to say, ‘OK, let’s do it.’ I had an easy time writing to his tunes and I was lucky that he kept sending them to me, because it inspired a song every time.”
The album is a departure for both artists — more of a traditional folk album than Martin’s previous Grammy-winning excursions into bluegrass or Brickell’s pop success with her band the New Bohemians. “If there’s anything unusual about this record,” Martin said, “it’s that the banjo and voice are leading the way. Usually in bluegrass the banjo is a driving force, but it’s an instrument to use on the instrumental breaks. Here it’s actually echoing the emotion of the voice in a weird, melancholy way.”
Music has overtaken movies as Martin’s vehicle of choice in recent years, in part due to the fact that at 67 he’s recently become a father for the first time. “The movie business changed quite a bit,” he said. “I don’t want to go away for three months to a foreign land, which is what you have to do now to make a movie. And with a wife and a child, I don’t really want to go somewhere for a long time and work 14-hour days. The music was a complete accident.”
While their live show features a healthy blend of music and comedy, the album itself is completely serious, with Brickell spinning captivating, folksy yarns over Martin’s simple but memorable melodies. The lyrics grew naturally from Martin’s music, Brickell said. “I just started singing how the banjo made me feel. If I hear any instrument play, I just to start to sing, because there’s always a song; there are always images and feelings that music inspires. It’s a complete mystery that engages me heart and soul.”
Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers feat. Edie Brickell
New York City:
Today, 8 p.m.
123 W. 43rd St.
Thursday, 8 p.m.
Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center
300 S. Broad St.